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Saratoga Race Course Notes - August 26

By NYRA Press Office | 08/26/2013 04:09 PM ET
Royal Delta
PHOTO/Adam Coglianese

  • Flat Out works for G1 Woodward; G1 Personal Ensign winner Royal Delta heads next to G1 Beldame at Belmont Park
  • Wilkes pleased with Fort Larned’s final breeze for G1 Woodward
  • Pletcher leaning toward G1 Woodward for G1 Whitney winner Cross Traffic; Sweet Whiskey, Stopchargingmaria work for G1 Spinaway
  • Lea to switch to dirt for G1 Forego
  • Wired Bryan targeting G1 Hopeful
  • Debut winner Zinzay pleases Arnold; Centre Court to undergo evaluation at Rood & Riddle
  • Ribaudo delighted with Quay’s victory
  • Fields coming together for closing weekend stakes

While Grade 1 Personal Ensign Invitational winner Royal Delta relaxed Monday morning, Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott sent out his 7-year-old gelding Flat Out for a final blowout before contesting the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward at 1 1/8 miles on Saturday.

With regular exercise rider Neil Poznansky aboard, Flat Out zipped four furlongs in 48.30 seconds over the Oklahoma training track, the best of 44 works at the distance. The work came one day after Mott’s other Woodward entrant, Ron the Greek, went four furlongs in 49.30 at Oklahoma, second-best of 27 at the distance.

“Ron was bucking and squealing yesterday, and Neil thought Flat Out gave him a good feel this morning,” Mott said.

Ron the Greek, a 6-year-old son of Full Mandate, finished fourth, beaten just 4 ¼ lengths, in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap on August 3. Flat Out, however, has been on the sidelines since cruising to a 2 ½-length score in the Grade 2 Suburban Handicap on July 6 at Belmont Park.

“We had the option [to run Flat Out in the Whitney],” Mott said. “He had won the Suburban, and we thought if he was doing really, really well going into the Whitney, we’d run. We worked him and thought he maybe wasn’t on his game 100 percent. He has always had issues with his feet, and we thought we needed a little more time for one of his feet.

“With that being said, we pointed to the Woodward. We didn’t want to skip them both. This work today was as good as Neil has felt him. He gets on him every day, and he seemed to think he was more on his game than he has been some of his previous works.”

Ron the Greek and Flat Out will face a strong field in the Woodward, likely including the top three finishers from the Whitney, Cross Traffic, Successful Dan and Mucho Macho Man.

Royal Delta, meanwhile, is targeting the Grade 1, $400,000 Beldame Invitational on September 28 at Belmont Park as her final race before the Breeders’ Cup. Like last year she likely will be cross-entered in both the Distaff and the Classic, Mott said.

“She looked fine; she was good this morning,” Mott said. “Looked like she’s got another one in her. If she runs in the Beldame, we go to the Breeders’ Cup. She could be nominated [to both the Classic and Distaff] the same way she was last year, but I don’t think anything is written in stone yet. I think that would be a conversation for something closer to the race. I don’t think it’s something we’re going to plan on now. It’s an option.”

Except for failed efforts to win the Dubai World Cup on Meydan Racecourse’s synthetic surface the past two years, Royal Delta’s record has few blemishes. She made amends Sunday for her half-length loss last year in the Personal Ensign, and her upset second-place finish in the Grade 2 Fleur de Lis Handicap at Churchill Downs after the World Cup turned out to be a springboard to a 10 ¾-length win July 20 in the Grade 1 Delaware Handicap.

When Royal Delta finished her work in the Personal Ensign yesterday, the 18,706 in attendance at Saratoga greeted her with a standing ovation as she made her way back after galloping out. With Mott and owner Benjamin Leon next to her, Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith walked Royal Delta in a circle three times as the crowd roared.

“I heard them when she crossed the wire, and, obviously, I was standing out in front with Mr. Leon,” Mott said. “And he was beside me, and as she was approaching, everybody was applauding, and I said, ‘Listen to this behind you.’ It made him feel good too. I didn’t have to tell him, but I said, ‘It’s nice. People still appreciate seeing a good horse.’ To see the consistency; they’re just very gallant animals, particularly one like her.”

Fort Larned, fifth as the favorite after a slow start in the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap last time out, breezed a solid five furlongs Monday morning in preparation for Saturday’s Grade 1 Woodward.

With jockey Brian Hernandez flying in from Kentucky for the move, Fort Larned went out shortly after 6:30 a.m. and was clocked in 1:00.86 on the main track. Trainer Ian Wilkes caught the 5-year-old son of E Dubai galloping out six furlongs in 1:12 3/5.

“It was a nice work, and I’m very pleased with it,” said Wilkes. “The only thing I can control is my horse, and I’m happy with him.”

Wilkes is taking a slightly different path than last year to Santa Anita for the defending Breeders’ Cup Classic star. In 2012, Fort Larned won the Whitney and then used the Grade 1 Jockey Club Gold Cup on September 29 at Belmont Park – his eighth start of the year – as his final prep for the 1 ¼-mile Classic.

This year, Fort Larned has run four times, with his lone victory coming in the Grade 1 Stephen Foster Handicap on June 15 at Churchill Downs.

“Last year he was running all year,” said Wilkes. “I feel this year he needs more racing. After this, we’re definitely going to look at the Jockey Club Gold Cup [September 28].”

A final decision has yet to be made regarding the next start for Cross Traffic, the impressive front-running winner of Saratoga’s Grade 1 Whitney Handicap Invitational on August 3.

Trainer Todd Pletcher said Monday morning that he is “very strongly” considering the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward on Saturday, run over the same track at an identical 1 1/8-mile distance as the Whitney.

“There’s a good chance he will be entered,” said Pletcher, who is also taking a look at the Grade 1, $1 million Jockey Club Gold Cup, run at 1 ¼ miles on September 28 at Belmont Park, for the 4-year-old Unbridled’s Song colt.

“[The decision will be based on] what I think gives us the best chance to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic,” he said. “There’s a lot of variables. The horse is here, he’s doing well, he won the Whitney over the racetrack. He also ran very well at Belmont. I’d say it’s probably more likely that we run here than we won’t.”

Among Pletcher’s workers on Monday were 2-year-old fillies Sweet Whiskey and Stopchargingmaria, who are both headed to the Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway on September 1. Working in company with Elena Strikes, Stopchargingmaria was clocked in 1:00.84 for five furlongs on the main track.

Working by herself, Sweet Whiskey blazed through a half-mile in 47.69 seconds, also on the main track, the fastest of 48 horses at the distance.

“[Sweet Whiskey] was impressive. I wasn’t surprised she did that,” said Pletcher. “She’s a pretty forward-training filly that’s pretty fast. She wasn’t being asked to do it; she was doing it because she was happy.”

Sweet Whiskey won her debut by 5 ¼ lengths on August 11 in 1:02.81 for 5 ½ furlongs, nearly two seconds faster than Stopchargingmaria ran winning her unveiling on July 19 by 5 ½ lengths, covering the same distance in 1:04.69.

“I thought that both fillies were very, very good,” said Pletcher. “I’m really pleased with the way they went, and we’re optimistic.”

Plans remain uncertain for 3-year-old filly Princess of Sylmar, a winner of three consecutive Grade 1 stakes – the Kentucky Oaks, TVG Coaching Club American Oaks, and Alabama, the latter at the Spa on August 17.

Races being considered include the Grade 1 Beldame Invitational at Belmont Park on September 28 against older horses going 1 1/8 miles, and Grade 1 at Parx Racing on September 21 against fellow three-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles.

“Whatever we decide to do with Princess of Sylmar will be based on what’s best for Princess of Sylmar,” Pletcher said. “You can make a lot of pros for the Cotillion if you like, no question about it. It’s a short ship, but you still have to get on a van and go do it, as opposed to just walking out of your stall.”

Pletcher said Authenticity emerged from her runner-up finish to two-time champion Royal Delta in Sunday’s Grade 1 Personal Ensign in good shape, and that he is pointing both Corfu and All in Blue to the Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful on September 2. A decision will be made on King Cyrus for the Hopeful after the WinStar Farm colt breezes Tuesday morning.

Lea, second in the Grade 2 Firecracker Handicap and third in the Grade 2 Fourstardave Handicap behind reigning Horse of the Year Wise Dan in his two most recent starts, will switch to dirt for the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego on Saturday, trainer Al Stall said on Monday.

A Claiborne Farm and Adele Dilschneider homebred, Lea has made one start on the dirt, winning an off-the-turf optional claimer by 3 ¼ lengths in June at Churchill Downs. That race was Lea’s 4-year-old debut, with the colt having won the Grade 3 Commonwealth Turf last November at Churchill in his sophomore finale.

“He ran so well in that one [dirt] race,” said Stall. “We like the way the horse is training, and if you go by [Ragozin numbers], the race on dirt was the best race in his life by many, many points.”

Stall said his desire to avoid additional showdowns with Wise Dan was a primary factor in his decision to have Lea compete in the seven-furlong Forego.

“The next race was either the [Grade 2 Bernard] Baruch [on Saturday], which we didn’t want to do, or the [Grade 1 Woodbine Mile on September 15] with Wise Dan at level weights, or the [Grade 1] Shadwell [Turf Mile on October 15] with Wise Dan at level weights, so we’ll go back to dirt and see if it works,” said Stall.

Anstu Stables’ Wired Bryan returned to the worktab Monday morning, his first breeze since finishing second by a nose in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special on August 11.

Trained by Michael Dilger, Wired Bryan was clocked in 1:00.88 for five furlongs over the Oklahoma training track, the fastest of nine horses at the distance.

Given the work, and the way he has trained since his last race, Dilger is pointing the Stormy Atlantic colt to the Grade 1 Hopeful on September 2.

“We wanted a good work this morning, [and] good horses work fast,” said Dilger. “I’m very pleased with the way he worked. As long as he’s fine tomorrow, we’ll go ahead an enter him for Monday.”

Should Wired Bryan run in the Hopeful, he would be the first horse to compete in all three of Saratoga’s graded juvenile stakes since City Zip swept the Sanford, Saratoga Special and Hopeful in 2000.

Afleet Alex won the Sanford and Hopeful in 2004, a year in which the Saratoga Special was not run.

A debut winner at Belmont Park on June 19, Wired Bryan came back to romp by 5 ¼ lengths in the Sanford on July 21, running six furlongs in 1:11.06. In the Saratoga Special, he chased the winner, Corfu, around the track, coming up a nose short at the wire.

“It was a tough race for both horses,” said Dilger, “but I’m very happy with his weight and his overall condition since that race, and I’m very pleased with the way he worked this morning. I’m looking forward to the race.”

Trainer George “Rusty” Arnold believed Regis Racing’s Zinzay was destined to be a turf horse, and his opinion was validated on Sunday when the Smart Strike filly won by a neck in her debut, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight for 2-year-old fillies.

“I never expect them to pull out a victory,” said Arnold. “I expect them to run well. She had trained well and we thought she had performed well, and that’s all you can ask for a 2-year-old first-time starter. Winning is just a bonus.”

Zinzay is the first foal to race out of Music Room, an unraced half-sister to Music Note, who posted Grade 1 scores in the Beldame, Coaching Club American Oaks, Ballerina, and Mother Goose on the dirt; and Musical Chimes, a turf runner who captured the Group 1 Poule D’Essai Des Pouliches (French 1000 Guineas) and Grade 1 John C. Mabee Handicap.

“She likes the grass,” said Arnold. “Her works were better on the grass. I don’t think she is going to see the dirt.”

On Sunday, Zinzay tracked 4-5 favorite Hillhouse High in second before striking to the front in midstretch and asserting herself late under jockey Joe Rocco, Jr. Crown Queen, a half-sister to Royal Delta, finished 3 ¼ lengths behind the winner in third.

“She did everything right,” said Arnold. “She acted good in the paddock, she acted good in the gate. She broke well and did everything the right way. We’re very happy with her. She had trained well, but you don’t know if they are going to do it until they do it.”

Arnold said Zinzay likely will make her next start in the Grade 3 Jessamine on October 9 at Keeneland.

Centre Court, eighth in the Grade 2 Ketel One Ballston Spa on Saturday, has been sent to Rood & Riddle Equine Hospital in Lexington, Ky. to undergo a nuclear scan, Arnold added.

“She’s sound, but something has gone amiss that I haven’t found,” said Arnold. “I worked hard trying to find it, but I’m missing something. She’s going to be examined on Wednesday morning, and then I’ll get a report from [Dr.Larry Bramlage]. She trained sensationally, but something has changed in the afternoon. She wasn’t comfortable leaving the gate, she had her head in the air, she was bearing out. Nothing was right. Something is there that I’m missing and all of my vets are missing.”

After several good runs, trainer Bobby Ribaudo scored his first win of the meet Sunday when he sent out Marc Keller’s 3-year-old Tapit filly Quay to win the opener on the card, a mile race on the inner turf course.

Much had been expected of Quay, a $250,000 purchase out of the 2011 Keeneland Association SeptemberYearling Sale auction.

Ribaudo, best known for stars such as Bribon and Grand Couturier, was thrilled with Quay’s victory, but he also wished she wasn’t making just her third career start late in her 3-year-old season.

“It’s gratifying, but it’s also disappointing because you know some of her 3-year-old opportunities have passed,” Ribaudo said. “If she does get better and good, she’ll be up against older horses and will never have had that nice 3-year-old campaign you’d like to see. So, you just go through your conditions. If she earns her way into a better spot, fine. With the purses like they are here, winning a maiden race is like winning a stake anywhere else. So, it’s not the worst thing in the world.”

Quay looked talented, beating 10 other maidens and running the mile in 1:34.39.

“Everything was good,” Ribaudo said. “We’ll see whether she’s going to make the step forward or not. She’s done everything we’ve asked of her. She had a little delay in the action. She had shins; she had a little ankle going on. It might have helped her because she’s not a big horse. Now, she’s filled out really nicely. She’s never going to be a big, tall horse. So, the question was will she get a distance, and I think she answered that yesterday.”

Saratoga will host seven graded stakes during the final three days of the meet, topped by the Grade 1, $750,000 Woodward at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds and upward on Saturday. Cross Traffic, Successful Dan, Mucho Macho Man, Ron the Greek, Fort Larned, and Alpha, the respective top six finishers from the Grade 1 Whitney Invitational Handicap, are all expected to compete in the Woodward, as are Flat Out and Paynter, according to NYRA stakes coordinator Andrew Byrnes.

Older sprinters will compete on the Woodward undercard in the Grade 1, $500,000 Forego at seven furlongs. Probables include Fast Bullet, Golddigger’s Boy, Jackson Bend, Justin Phillip, Lea, Sage Valley, and Saratoga Snacks. Jake N Elwood and Strapping Groom are possible.

Turf horses will travel 1 1/16 miles on Saturday in the Grade 2, $250,000 Bernard Baruch Handicap, and the race is expected to draw Paris Vegas, Silver Max, So Long George, Tetradrachm, Turallure, Willcox Inn, and Za Approval.

Bahnah and Brazen Persuasion, who dead-heated for the win in the Grade 3 Schuylerville on opening day, will have a rematch in Sunday’s Grade 1, $300,000 Spinaway. Also expected for the seven-furlong Spinaway are Dancing House, Designer Legs, Stopchargingmaria, Sweet Reason, Sweet Whiskey, and True Blue Nation.

Saratoga also will conduct the Grade 3, $150,000 Saranac at 1 1/8 miles for 3-year-olds on Sunday. Are You Kidding Me, Channel Isle, Charming Kitten, Favor Factor, Five Iron, Infinite Magic, Joha, Notacatbutallama, and Tattenham are probable. Frac Daddy is possible.

The Grade 1, $300,000 Hopeful tops Monday’s card, the meet’s final day. Another rematch is in the works as Grade 2 Saratoga Special top two finishers Corfu and Wired Bryan are expected for the seven-furlong race. All in Blue, Big Sugar Soda, Casiguapo, Long On Value, Lunarwarfare, and Southern Blessing also are probable. King Cyrus is possible.

Closing day also will include the Grade 3, $150,000 Glens Falls for fillies and mares on the turf. Angel Terrace, Anjaz, Layali Dubai, Minakshi, Mystical Star, Strathnaver, Tannery, and White Rose are probable for the 1 3/8-mile event. Heart of Destiny is possible.